April 20, 2014
Prosecutors will this week seek to build on their sweeping terror case against a former radical cleric from north London by calling a succession of former associates and followers as witnesses and playing recordings of his past sermons and statements in which he vilifies the West and praises al-Qa’ida. The stakes are high for the US government as the trial of Abu Hamza, former imam of the Finsbury Park mosque, north London, enters a second week. He was brought to the US in 2012 to stand trial on charges of fostering terror around the world after a years-long extradition battle. To lose would be a serious embarrassment.
Abu Hamza, 56, who has already served six years in Britain for inciting hatred and soliciting murder, faces 11 charges. He is accused of trying to set up a jihad training camp in Oregon, providing assistance to hostage-takers in an attack on western tourists in Yemen in 1998 that left four dead, and sending support and fighters to al-Qaida in Afghanistan. He denies all the charges.
Before making his statement, defence lawyer Joshua Dratel stood behind Abu Hamza, seated at the defence table, and clasped his shoulders in a gesture meant to relay to jurors that despite Hamza’s fiery reputation and appearance – he lost both hands and an eye in Afghanistan – he remains a human being. He confirmed that Abu Hamza will later take the stand.
The trial is due to last a month.